Film in review: “The Little Things”


The Winonan’s film reporter rates “The Dig” 3/5.

Noah Mruz, Film Reviewer

No matter who you are, we have all been confused? Maybe just with that sentence. The 2021 film “The Little Things” provokes this same sentiment: confusion, as well as a lack of closure at the worst times. Despite this confusion, I overall enjoyed the movie. It was enthralling and captivating the entire way through. However, this confusing mixture of joy and brain strain are clearly shown in the film’s acting, the story and the setting of the film itself.

Taking place in the 1990s, “The Little Things” follows Deputy Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) as he approaches the end of his career. When tasked to return to Los Angeles, Deke comes across a young detective (Rami Malik) investigating a serial killer that evaded Deke years before. The two combine forces to find the man behind these gruesome murders but find the task much more demanding than they imagined.

 The story itself can feel basic at times; an older, more experienced cop helps a younger cop who has an inflated ego. However, it is a story people can get invested in quickly. Sadly, some questions are left up to the viewer and never adequately answered. New-Age artsy filmmakers will say elements were left ambiguous to leave questions in the viewer’s mind, but I would say it comes across as lazy. That does not mean every question that may arise watching the film is never answered, but it’s the questions that aren’t answered that cause a headache for the viewer. The strongest element driving the film is the acting, which is also similarly inconsistent.

 Denzel Washington, Rami Malik and Jared Leto are three masters of their craft who create compelling and dynamic scenes. Seeing Washington and Malik play off of each other is enthralling, most of the time. They do great jobs in their roles, most of the time. However, there are moments where these characters seem bored, like they did a single take of the scene after they had just woken up. Other scenes come across as compelling and drive you to want more and more out of the film, yet it is inconsistent due to the plot’s ambiguity in the worst moments.One of the worst things about this film is when it forgets its own setting of 1990’s Los Angeles. When you watch this movie, you may forget that completely because there is little consistency to the setting. One scene shows a run-down street with cars appropriate to the time while the next shows a very modern looking precinct where the offices have all-glass walls, similar to a cliché tech startup. There are flashbacks from when Deke worked at the police precinct where the officers are dressed like it is the 1950’s, but the film wants you to believe it was 1985. This lack of consistency or commitment to something as basic as the setting that makes the film feel slightly sloppy. Some plot and character choices could be explained away, but it would be hard to explain why detectives in 1985 Los Angeles all are dressed in trench coats and suits as if they are Dick Tracy.

   When you look at a film like this as a whole, you think of the cast, the setting and the story, and you wonder “how could it fail?” But as the film says, it’s the little things. The moments characters seem bored, ambiguous moments that are unclear for no reason and a setting that is brushed aside. The little things add up too much for this film. For whatever reason, I would recommend this film, as nearly 24 hours later, I am still thinking about it, trying to put the pieces together. However, a good film should make you connect dots just to create a sense of closure for yourself. I am giving “The Little Things”  3 out of 5 stars.